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Combat Lifesaver Course Trains Soldiers to Save Lives on Battlefield

By Pfc. April Campbell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind., Sept. 6, 2007 – When soldiers are wounded in combat, the most immediate medical care available generally is given by other soldiers on the battlefield, most of whom are not combat medics.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Sgt. Clint Higgins, a Combat Lifesaver instructor with 205th Infantry Brigade, helps students taking the Combat Lifesaver Course practice lifesaving skills Aug. 23 at Camp Atterbury, Ind. During the final exercise, students are required to practice many of their newly learned skills including inserting IVs, applying tourniquets and pressure dressings, treating mental trauma, and moving wounded soldiers to a safe area. U.S. Army photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Many soldiers training here are taking the Combat Lifesaver Course offered by the 205th Infantry Brigade to prepare them for such situations.

“I’m helping a soldier save a life,” said Sgt. Stacey N. Edwards, a Combat Lifesaver instructor with 205th Infantry Brigade. “In Iraq and Afghanistan, nine out of 10 times, a combat lifesaver will be able to treat a wounded soldier before a medic will. Skills we are teaching them here save lives over there.”

The Army requires 20 percent of personnel in each unit to be Combat Lifesaver certified, said Sgt. Clint Higgins, another instructor.

The four-day course involves 40 hours of training from soldiers who are combat medics. Eight hours of the course are taught in the warrior training course at Forward Operating Base Bayonet, on Camp Atterbury, said Sgt. Chris W. Rhea, an instructor.

The three main areas of preventable combat deaths addressed in the course are bleeding out, lung collapse and airway blockage. Nearly 90 percent of combat deaths are due to these types of wounds, said instructor Sgt. Anthony Bussing.

If the Combat Lifesaver-certified soldiers can initially treat these wounds, it helps medics save more lives on the battlefield by enabling wounded soldiers to stay alive until medics can treat them. The Combat Lifesaver course here not only teaches soldiers these skills, but also adds the stresses of a combat environment into the training, Bussing added.

In the final exercise of the course, soldiers break into teams and practice their skills on each other in a simulated combat environment. Soldiers must wear their individual body armor, and those soldiers who are mobilizing must also carry their weapons.

In addition to the body armor and weapons, the exercise also incorporates old uniforms for “casualties” to wear to make the training as realistic as possible. “We’ve been donated old uniforms,” Rhea said. “It adds to the realism, because the students have to expose the (simulated) wound by cutting through the clothing.”

After completing the course, soldiers become more confident in their ability to keep their fellow soldiers alive if they are hurt on the battlefield.

“If I have to perform the CLS tasks, I know what needs to be done,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Dumas Jr., a human resources specialist with 2nd Battalion, 337th Infantry Regiment (Training Support Battalion), 205th Infantry Brigade. “I won’t be so nervous, because the hands-on training was very realistic.”

During the final exercise, students also practice inserting intravenous lines into each other to get hands-on experience.

“I know that I have seen improvement in my ability to initialize an IV since … we practiced it in the classroom,” Dumas said.

(Army Pfc. April Campbell is assigned to the 113th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

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Camp Atterbury, Ind.


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